by Lucas Berard
My experiences have allowed me to see the relentless cycle of fear, anger, attack, and retaliation- and I do everything I can now to throw a wrench into the machine that is profiting off of so much human suffering. A machine fueled by hateful and demeaning rhetoric, and thrives in societies that lack empathy for other peoples and cultures.
Years into this self-imposed mission, I’m still surprised to see so many folks turn their nose up when I mention the concept of pursuing peace- like it’s a dirty word or something. Peace is noble, peace is strength, peace is the central message of many religious leaders, including Jesus Christ. Read the red words. Never once does he glorify war and fighting, but spoke against it numerous times. He preached love above all else, especially when it’s difficult or even downright risky.
Like Armistice Day, we’ve lost a part of what we once were, and we’ve been drifting toward larger and longer conflicts ever since, and we’re losing our empathy, a critical part in any respectable and sustainable people or country. I believe that if we can reclaim that empathy, we will reclaim a part of what it is to be an American, and in doing so, find solid, peaceful footing again.
Peace is possible- but it takes a real, determined desire to create and sustain it. If we truly wish to honor our veterans, both here and gone, as well as our own country, we must remember the true costs of war; they are far steeper than most of us realize.
Our nation needs to return to Armistice Day, a day for peace instead of a day for displays of militarism. It is especially relevant after a very divisive presidential campaign and election.
by Bill Christofferson, Milwaukee Chapter 102. Published in the Urban Milwaukee.
November 11, Veterans Day, is a day to honor all who have served in the US armed forces, whether in wartime or peacetime, at home or abroad. Veterans who wore the uniform in service of their country deserve that recognition.
But somehow the day has become more a celebration and display of militarism than a day to celebrate veterans.
That is especially unfortunate and ironic because the date was first observed as Armistice Day, a day to celebrate the end of World War I and promote world peace.
World War I, the “war to end all wars” ended on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Thirty-eight million, combatants and civilians, had been killed or wounded. The world was horrified by the carnage.
Congress responded to a hope among Americans for no more wars by passing a resolution calling on Armistice Day to be marked by “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding.” Later, Congress added that November 11 was to be “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.”
In 1954 Congress changed the name to Veterans Day, and in the years since it has morphed into a flag-waving display of patriotism that often seems to honor the military and war as much as it does those who served.
We don’t talk about veterans in these days of endless war; we call them warriors, as though every veteran were exposed to combat. But only a small percentage of our veterans have actually experienced combat. Even those deployed to a war zone are more likely to end up in supporting roles, not in battle.
That is not to take away anything from anyone who served. In fact, every man or woman who takes the oath and puts on a uniform is exposed to the potential that they will be asked to risk their life. Once they enlist, who gets what job or orders to deploy is beyond their control.
Vietnam Veterans Against the War has long had a slogan, “Honor the warrior, not the war.”
That is exactly what Veterans Day should do. It is not at all incompatible to honor veterans while promoting peace and an end to war as an instrument of foreign policy.
That is what Veterans for Peace has done since 1985, honoring veterans while educating the public about the true costs of war. Ironically, the organizers of Milwaukee’s Veterans Day parade have refused to allow the local Veterans for Peace chapter to take part in the parade. In Milwaukee, there is no place for peace on Veterans Day.
Veterans for Peace will observe Armistice Day with a program in the City Hall rotunda at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11. The public is welcome.
by John Ketwig
As both the presidential election and Veterans Day approach, it’s important to recall that Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, an international celebration of peace at the conclusion of World War I.
While the candidates debate cutting the costs of education, health care, Social Security, clean water and environmental issues, more than half of our country’s discretionary spending is funneled directly to the military, with very questionable results. Yes, our national debt is fast approaching twenty trillion dollars.
The Defense Department insists it is “impossible” to audit the Pentagon’s books. We recently learned that the Army cannot account for $65 trillion (not a typo!) that slipped through its fingers in 2015. Truth is, America spends more on militarism than the next 13, 17 or all the countries of the world combined. Our military is certainly not operating with “depleted” resources.
More important, it has not prevailed in any significant conflict since World War II. The Vietnam War was ostensibly fought to contain communism, our high-tech weapons accounted for at least 3.5 million deaths, mostly civilians, and in the end communist governments ruled Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in similar destruction, and the Middle East is awash in blood as a result of American intervention.
We currently maintain more than 800 military installations or bases around the globe, far more than any other nation. Our “special operations” forces operate in approximately 135 of the planet’s 190 countries. As we lament America’s stagnant economy, it is interesting to note that the U.S. controls over 50 percent of the world’s arms market (more than the next 14 arms-exporting nations combined) and provides military equipment and training to 160 nations. Far too often, we supply arms to both the good guys and the bad guys.
America’s parents quietly accept that their children’s military service is apt to result in PTSD. Recently, the Veterans Administration suggested that veteran suicides have dropped to 20 per day, down from 22. Those estimates fail to mention that the vast majority of America’s states and communities have no established means of reporting veteran suicides to the VA or any other data collection agency.
No one really knows how many veterans are dying of self-inflicted wounds, but the number is surely higher than the VA estimates. Suicides are also increasing in the active-duty military, (a very separate statistic), so they have stopped reporting them to the public.
Modern American warfare features such terrible weapons and indiscriminate tactics that many of our soldiers emerge from battle feeling they have committed war crimes. Statistics promise that one of every three women enlisting in our military today will be raped by a co-worker within the first two years of their “service.” Like the Agent Orange victims of America’s war in Vietnam, our troops in the Middle East are experiencing health problems related to depleted uranium weapons and the caustic smoke from illegal open burn pits.
Many of our installations in Iraq were built atop Saddam Hussein’s abandoned chemical weapons facilities. We quietly accept that neither Congress, the Pentagon nor the VA will recognize or treat the illnesses related to service in the armed forces. Veterans realize the promises of the candidates are meaningless, as the military-industrial complex will never admit that modern war is harmful to its participants.
The presidential election reveals that significant portions of the American public believe our “democracy” has been sold out to the big banks and corporate interests while our infrastructure rusts and corrodes, our children can’t read, we fear our family’s finances will be wiped out by a health emergency, college graduates are deep in debt and corporate profiteers deny the obvious climate crisis.
The candidates suggest we invest even more of our nation’s wealth into a supposedly “depleted” military, and to base all our hopes for our country’s economic future upon perpetual wars. Unlike the presidential candidates, I will suggest that America could cut its “defense” budget by half and revitalize our educational institutions, offer universal health care, repair our infrastructure, address climate change, pay off our national debt and still spend more on death and destruction than any other nation on the planet!
by Arnold Stieber, Chicago Chapter
War is a business. Maybe that's why a day of peace - Armistice Day - has been transformed into a day of promotion of the military model of conflict resolution by violence. The original Congressional resolution on June 4, 1926 stated that 11/11 "should be commemorated with . . . exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations" and they invited "the people of the United States to observe the day . . . with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples".
by Don Kimball, Las Vegas Nevada